Madagascar
Comprehensive
Birding & Wildlife
Details
Days 1: Arrival into Antananarivo

Upon arrival in the bustling capital of Antananarivo, or
“Tana” as it is more commonly known, we transfer to our
hotel on the edge of this intriguing city for an overnight
stay. Depending on time this morning, we may visit the
Tsimbazaza Zoo, which showcases a range of Malagasy
lemurs and herps. The artificial water bodies on the
property provide a home to a number of waterfowl, and
we may see our first Madagascar Grebe and Dimorphic
Egret. Tall trees on the property sometimes provide a
roost for Madagascar Owl; however, we would be most
fortunate to see this species here!

This afternoon we will make our first birding excursion at
Lac Alarobia. Travelling from our hotel into the city, one
cannot help being struck by the uniqueness of the
Malagasy culture, a strange mixture of African and Asian
influences reflected in the landscape and architecture.
Lac Alarobia, a private sanctuary set within the city
protects large numbers of ducks and egrets from
persecution. As evening sets, the small lake literally
teems with waterfowl. Large numbers of White-faced
Whistling Duck and Red-billed Teal should be seen,
usually accompanied by small numbers of Hottentot Teal,
Knob-billed and sometimes Fulvous Whistling Duck. The
Lac also supports a fantastic assortment of egrets that
roost or breed in the sanctuary, including a few splendidly
adorned Malagasy Pond Heron and Dimorphic Egret.
African Openbill, a very scarce bird in Madagascar, is
sometimes also recorded here. Mascarene Martin is
common overhead and we will be watching in adjacent
areas for more Madagascar endemics, which may include
Malagasy Kestrel, Malagasy Coucal, Malagasy Black
Swift, Madagascar Wagtail, Madagascar White-eye,
Madagascar Mannikin and Red Fody.

Day 2: Antananarivo to Mahajanga and Ampijoroa
Forest Station

Today we fly to Mahajanga on the north-west coast of
Madagascar, for the first leg of our island adventure. After
arriving in this sleepy town, we will drive to Ampijoroa, a
forest station situated in the extensive deciduous forests
of the Ankarafantsika Reserve. Ampijoroa is famous as
the home of World Wildlife Fund’s Plough-shear Tortoise
captive breeding program and is an ideal base from to
search for the numerous endemic birds of the region.

En route to the reserve we will scan roadside water
bodies for Yellow-billed Stork, Purple, Striated, Squacco,
Malagasy Pond and flocks of Black Heron, which we will
watch as they perform their bizarre “umbrella-feeding”
routine.

On arrival at the forestry station we should encounter
numerous “campsite residents” such as Broad-billed
Roller, screeching Lesser Vasa Parrot, Crested Drongo,
Madagascar Magpie-Robin, Sakalava Weaver,
Madagascar Hoopoe, Malagasy Paradise Flycatcher,
Madagascar Green Pigeon and Malagasy Turtle Dove,
before birding the dry forest that surrounds the camp. We
may embark on a night walk as the sun sets, searching
for the large range of chameleons and mammals that call
these woodlands home.        

Day 3: Ampijoroa Forest Station

We have a full day to explore the network of trails through
the dry forest around Ampijoroa, in search of the many
birds restricted to this region. Foremost amongst these is
the secretive White-breasted Mesite, and the jewel-like
Schlegel’s Asity, which recalls a miniature Bird-of-
paradise! We will also concentrate on finding the highly
localised Van Dam’s Vanga and the two species of coua
that are restricted to these deciduous forests: Red-
capped and Coquerel’s. Other birds we hope to see whilst
searching for these specials include Madagascar Ibis,
Madagascar Buttonquail, France’s Sparrowhawk,
Madagascar Pygmy Kingfisher, and Rufous, Hook-billed,
White-headed, Chabert’s and Red-tailed Vanga.
No less than eight species of lemur occur in the near
vicinity of the camp and we will search for the comical
Coquerel’s Sifaka, Common Brown Lemur and the rare
Mongoose Lemur during the day, and Western Avahi
(Woolly Lemur), Milne-Edward’s Sportive, Fat-tailed Dwarf
and Grey Mouse Lemurs after dark. If we are lucky, we
may also find the recently described (1998) Golden-
brown Mouse Lemur, one of the world’s smallest primates
and only known from around Lac Ravelobe (hence its
scientific name Microcebus ravelobensis.)

Reptiles are also plentiful along the trails and we hope to
see the impressive Giant Hog-nosed Snake, as well as
several smaller species of snake (all harmless- amazingly,
there are no venomous snakes in Madagascar!), Oustalet’
s Chameleon (the world’s largest species) and the aptly
named Rhinoceros Chameleon, with its enlarged nasal
protuberance. Impressively spiky Cuvier’s Iguanids scurry
around the campsite.

We will spend some of the afternoon birding along the
edge of the adjacent Lac Ravelobe, where we hope to
find the critically endangered Madagascar Fish Eagle, a
pair of which is resident here. Wintering Sooty and
Eleonora’s Falcons are sometimes seen hunting
overhead in November while White-throated Rail favour
the waterside vegetation and we may find noisy groups of
Sickle-billed and Blue Vangas moving along the forest
fringe.

Day 4:  Ampijoroa to Mahajanga

After a final morning birding, lemur watching and
photographing around Ampijoroa we will return by bus to
Mahajanga for an overnight stay in a comfortable,
beachside hotel. We will once again search for waterbirds
en route to our hotel in Mahajanga. We will stop off at Lac
Amboromalandy to search for other waterbirds including
the striking Madagascar Jacana, which are sometimes
seen as they strut through lily-covered lakeshore
vegetation, Humblot’s Heron, Madagascar Grebe, African
Pygmy Goose and Allen’s Gallinule.

Day 5:  Mahajanga to Tana with excursion to Betsiboka
Delta

Today we fly back to “Tana” for an overnight stay. Our
flight in the early afternoon provides us with enough time
to take a motorised boat ride up the Betsiboka Delta. This
seldom-visited region is home to two of Madagascar’s
rarest and most endangered birds, Bernier’s Teal and
Malagasy Sacred Ibis. Other birds we may record on this
epic journey are Humblot’s Heron, African Openbill,
Greater Flamingo, African Spoonbill (a very rare bird in
Madagascar), Madagascar Harrier-Hawk, Terek
Sandpiper, Crab Plover and Lesser Crested and
Saunders’s Terns.

Day 6:  Antananarivo to Perinet

We depart early for the short drive eastwards across the
Highland Plateau to the famous reserve of Perinet
(otherwise known as Analamazaotra). Hamerkop, Black
Kite of the Yellow-billed form, Brown-throated Martin and
Madagascar Cisticola are regularly encountered en route.
We will also keep a look out for the delightful Madagascar
Pratincole, but will be very lucky if we find this sought after
beauty.

Our accommodation for the next three nights is a
comfortable hotel, ideally located overlooking a lake at
the edge of the forest. Being so close to the reserve
means that wildlife is often right on our doorstep:
fluorescent green day geckos scuttle on the outside walls
of our chalets, Madagascar Wagtails flit along the paved
walkways and we may well be serenaded by the beautiful
songs of the world’s largest extant species of lemur, the
handsome Indri. At night, a family of Furry-eared Dwarf
Lemurs are sometimes seen in the gardens of the hotel
as they forage through the trees.

Days 7 & 8: Perinet Special Reserve and Mantadia
National Park

The moist rainforest cloaking Madagascar’s eastern
escarpment protects the richest assemblage of birds on
the island, including many that are rare or poorly known.
Over 100 of these have been recorded from within the
small reserve of Perinet and we will search for such
specials as Madagascar Flufftail, the elusive Madagascar
Wood Rail, Madagascar Blue Pigeon, Greater Vasa
Parrot, Madagascar Cuckoo, Madagascar Spinetail,
Madagascar Pygmy Kingfisher, Madagascar Paradise
Flycatcher, Madagascar Cuckooshrike, Ward’s
Flycatcher, Tylas Vanga, Madagascar Starling, Long-
billed Bernieria, Spectacled Tetraka, White-throated
Oxylabes, Nelicourvi Weaver and Souimanga Sunbird.

Amongst the most sought-after of Madagascar’s birds are
those of the five families endemic to the Malagasy region:
the peculiar mesites, exquisite ground-rollers, Cuckoo-
Roller, Malagasy warblers and the vangas. Some of
these, such as the ubiquitous Cuckoo Roller, Pitta-like
Ground Roller, Common Sunbird-Asity and a number of
the vangas are reasonably common and regularly
encountered, whilst most of the others remain rare, local
or elusive. We will make a special effort to locate as many
representatives of these charismatic families as possible,
as well as those of the endemic sub-family, the couas.
In the forested hills around Perinet, we hope to find the
localised Red-fronted and Blue Coua, Velvet Asity, and
flocks of vangas that may include White-headed, Chabert’
s, Blue, Red-tailed, Hook-billed or the bizarre Nuthatch
Vanga, and if we are lucky, we may locate some of Perinet’
s forest rarities such as Madagascar Serpent Eagle.

Whilst in the Perinet area, we will make a special effort to
see the reserve’s most famous residents: the huge,
singing lemurs known as the Indri. A journey in search of
these magnificent creatures is an incredibly experience,
and if we are fortunate we will be treated to a close
encounter with a family group, their eerie, whale-like
howling echoing through the forest. Other lemurs we hope
to see include Common Brown and Grey Bamboo Lemur,
and we will also search known roosting sites for the
nocturnal but inquisitive Weasel Sportive Lemur. Another
“must see” member of the island’s fauna is the Giraffe-
necked Weevil, a tiny red and black insect named for its
unusually proportioned neck!

In the evenings, we will embark on night walks. Nocturnal
outings are a thrilling and indeed, essential part of any
trip to Madagascar and Perinet is one of the best sites to
search for the island’s night birds. Specialities here
include Madagascar Owl, Rainforest Scops Owl and both
Madagascar and the rare and little known Collared
Nightjar. Whilst seeing these birds will be the focus of our
walks, we will not neglect the immense variety of non-
avian life that emerges after dark. Although Madagascar
is famous for the spectacular lemurs that have adapted to
a daytime existence, a number of species of these
primitive primates remain, like their African cousins the
galagos, denizens of the night. We will search for and
should find Eastern Woolly, Furry-eared Dwarf and the
diminutive Goodman’s Mouse Lemur, and may also
encounter some of Madagascar’s other evolutionary
masterpieces such as the bizarre Lowland Streaked
Tenrec. The island’s reptile and amphibian (“herp”) fauna
is equally fascinating and even the most hardened birder
would not fail to be impressed by the plethora of colourful
and bizarre frogs, chameleons and geckos to be seen on
an evening’s stroll through the rainforest. In particular, we
will search for the giant Parson’s Chameleon and two
species of eccentric leaf-tailed geckos: the huge
Uroplatus fimbriatus and the aptly named Uroplatus
phantasticus.

Mantadia National Park lies a short distance from Perinet,
protecting a large expanse of primary forest at a
somewhat higher altitude. Though it has only recently
been opened to the public, Mantadia is now an essential
destination on any birding trip to Madagascar, having
rapidly gained a reputation as an excellent site for a
handful of highly sought-after forest birds. Not least
amongst these are a number of species formerly
considered to be restricted to the poorly accessible
rainforests of the far north-east, such as Red-breasted
Coua and Scaly Ground Roller. We will concentrate on
finding these specials, also watching for more widespread
yet no less desirable forest birds such as Madagascar
Blue Pigeon, Rufous-headed and Short-legged Ground
Roller, Crossley’s Babbler (recent DNA-analysis suggests
this species is an aberrant terrestrial vanga!), Common
and Dark Newtonia, Wedge-tailed, Green, Stripe-throated
and Common Jery, the newly described Cryptic Warbler
and Forest Fody.

Other attractions in this scenically beautiful park include
the vocal Black-and-White Ruffed Lemur, the elusive
Diademed Sifaka (considered by many to be the world’s
most beautiful lemur) and Baron’s Mantella, a
spectacularly coloured forest frog. Much of the birding in
Mantadia National Park can be enjoyed from the wide
road that runs up into the reserve, although seeing the
skulkers of the forest understorey will require that we take
to the steep and at times slippery trails into the rainforest.

Day 9: Perinet to Anjozorobe

We depart early for the drive to Anjozorobe for a two-
night stay. This exciting site provides us with the
opportunity of finding more forest and wetland birds which
are hard or near impossible to find elsewhere. The route
winds its way through rural Highland Malagasy scenery,
where traditional double storey red brick houses line
intensively managed rice paddies. As we near our
wonderful lodge, the hilly scenery becomes wilder and
less populated until we finally arrive at our quiet
accommodations perched above a tranquil highland
rainforest!

Day 10: Anjozorobe

We will spend the morning visiting the wetlands near the
lodge, which are some of the least disturbed anywhere in
Madagascar and we have a good chance of finding the
rare Meller’s Duck, Madagascar Grebe, Madagascar
Snipe and Madagascar Rail. If we are very fortunate we
may even find the extremely rare Slender-billed Flufftail!
Thereafter, we will explore the network of trails in the
ridge-top forests. Birds we will search for here include the
secretive and elusive Madagascar Wood Rail, Pitta-like
and Rufous-headed Ground Roller, Brown Emutail,
Crossley’s Babbler, Grey-crowned Tetraka, Madagascar
Yellowbrow and Common Sunbird-Asity. We will also
search for Madagascar Partridge, Madagascar
Buttonquail and Henst’s Goshawk.

Day 11: Anjozorobe to Tana, and Tana to Berenty via
Fort Dauphin

We depart early for the drive to the capital and then take
a short flight to Fort Dauphin (also known as Toliagnaro),
in the south-eastern corner of the country.  Upon arrival
we will transfer to the world-famous private lemur reserve
of Berenty. The 3.5 hour drive takes us from the wind-
blown but picturesque town of Fort Dauphin through well
watered valleys packed with paddy fields and finally into
the rain-shadow of the Andohahela Mountains where the
octopus like trees of the Didiereaceae family are
diagnostic of the xerophytic spiny forest. As we near
Berenty, this natural habitat is replaced by extensive
tracts of sisal plantations stretching as far as the eye can
see. Berenty Preserve belongs to the De Haulme family
who have set aside sections of gallery forest along the
Mandrare River to conserve its population of lemurs and
other wildlife.

We shall venture out in the evening in search of
Torotoroka Scops Owl and the impressive White-browed
Hawk-Owl but may also encounter a host of other
nocturnal creatures such as the strange Lesser
Hedgehog Tenrec and several species of attractive
geckos (including the remarkable Big-headed Gecko and
unique Fish-scaled Gecko).

Day 12:  Berenty Lemur Reserve

Berenty is justly famous for its lemurs, not only because
its deciduous woodland is home to five species of these
primitive primates but also for the ease with which they
may be seen and appreciated in the wild. Red-fronted
Brown Lemur occurs in large numbers during the day and
both White-footed Sportive and Grey Mouse Lemur are
regularly encountered on night walks through the reserve,
though the undoubted favourites are the Ring-tailed
Lemur and Verreaux’s Sifaka. Whilst the bands of cat-like,
quizzical Ringtails are often the first to steal visitors’
hearts, their appeal is easily matched by the strikingly
patterned sifakas, with their soulful expressions and
bizarre, bipedal dancing locomotion. To spend time with
groups of these gentle creatures will certainly be one of
the highlights of our Madagascar adventure. A further
mammalian highlight of Berenty is visiting the Madagascar
Flying Fox roost, were about 300 of these impressive
animals sporting 1.25 metre wingspans spend their day
squabbling and presumably sleeping.

We will be on the look-out for the numerous Giant Coua
that stroll along the well-cleared paths through the
woodland, and we maybe lucky enough to find the
dimorphic Madagascar Buttonquail as they scurry through
the leaf litter. Potential new species we may find here
include Reed Cormorant, Peregrine Falcon, Madagascar
and France’s Sparrowhawk, Helmeted Guineafowl,
Madagascar Sandgrouse, Bat Hawk (a very rare bird in
Madagascar) and Alpine Swift.        

If time allows, we may visit the well presented local
museum which displays various cultural aspects of the
local Antandroy Tribe, as well as one of the few complete
Elephant-bird eggs in the world.

Day 13: Berenty Lemur Reserve to Fort Dauphin and
Tulear to Ifaty

Today we return to Fort Dauphin in time to make the
connecting flight to the south-western city of Tulear. Upon
arrival we will transfer directly to our hotel in the small
resort of Ifaty for a two-night stay. We will stop en route to
look for the uncommon Madagascar Plover, while
wetlands and salt pans may hold numbers of Greater
Flamingo, Black-winged Stilt, Kittlitz’s Plover, assorted
migratory waders and Malagasy Harrier if we are very
fortunate.

Day 14: Ifaty

Much has been written about the strange Didierea
woodland, or “Spiny Forest”, around Ifaty but this in no
way lessens the feeling of awe that overcomes one as we
set foot in this botanical wonderland. Venturing out at
dawn, before the day’s heat, we will stroll amongst the
myriad multi-stemmed succulents, squat baobab trees
and thorny scrub in search of such spectacular endemics
as Banded Kestrel, Running and Red-capped Coua,
Archbold’s Newtonia, Thamnornis, Subdesert Brush
Warbler and Lafresnaye’s Vanga. Two very special birds
here are the near mythical Subdesert Mesite, which we
may find adopting its strange, cryptic posture on a thorny
branch, and Long-tailed Ground Roller, an elusive ground
dweller best located by its low, hooting call. Flocks of
noisy Sickle-billed Vanga are another feature of this
bizarre, Tolkienesque landscape. As the day warms up,
so too does the reptile activity increase. We should see
the numerous Three-eyed Lizards and may be lucky
enough to find a beautiful Spider Tortoise or rare Dumeril’
s Boa.

The tropical ocean off Ifaty is alive with marine life and we
will have some time to don masks and snorkels and
appreciate the myriad colours of a coral reef or relax in
the warm shallows in front of our hotel. An optional
afternoon excursion will be taken to bird some wetlands to
the south of Ifaty where previous Rockjumper tours have
found Greater Painted-Snipe, Little Bittern, White-
throated Rail and Baillon’s Crake.

Day 15: Ifaty to Tulear

After some final birding in the Ifaty area, we will make our
way southwards to Tulear, for a two-night stay. In the
afternoon, we will make our first excursion to a flat-topped
mountain aptly known as La Tabla. The habitat of this
desolate area is known as coral rag scrub and consists of
dense thorny scrubs, Euphorbia’s and twisted Baobabs.
Our target birds in this area include two species with
highly restricted ranges: Verreaux’s Coua and the
recently discovered Red-shouldered Vanga. Reptile life
here is particularly rich and we should find large, sleek
Zonosaurus plated lizards and if very lucky the stunning
Dumeril’s Boa and endangered Radiated Tortoise.
We can expect to enjoy a sumptuous sea-food dinner
tonight.

Day 16: San Augustin and Nosy Ve

This morning, we will board a speedboat for an excursion
to the small uninhabited islet of Nosy Ve to the south of
Tulear. The main attraction of Nosy Ve is its colony of
Red-tailed Tropicbird, which allow close approach as they
are left unmolested by local people due to a taboo or
fady. We may also find Crab Plover roosting on the
sandbars here, as well as good numbers of other migrant
waders and a large gull and tern roost. In 2005
Rockjumper discovered a Sooty Gull at this site, a new
bird for Madagascar. Depending on time and weather
conditions, we may snorkel on the beautiful coral reef
encircling the island. Lunch will be had on the mainland,
our other target here being the localised Littoral Rock
Thrush.

Day 17: Tulear to Isalo National Park via Zombitse
Forest

An early morning departure will take us to Zombitse
Forest in order to search the dainty Appert’s Tetraka.
This species is listed as Vulnerable by Birdlife
International and restricted to two forest sites in south-
western Madagascar totalling a tiny 500 square
kilometres! A variety of other interesting species are
resident in the dry, deciduous forest and we may find
Madagascar Ibis, Madagascar Harrier-Hawk, Giant and
Crested Coua, raucous Cuckoo Roller displaying high
overhead, Madagascar Cuckooshrike, Long-billed
Bernieria, Malagasy Paradise Flycatcher, Rufous, Blue
and Red-tailed Vanga and Madagascar Starling. The
highly elusive Fosa occurs here, however we will have to
be most fortunate to see this, Madagascar’s largest
predator.

Next will be the long drive across the Central Plateau, to
the isolated limestone massif of Isalo. The arid grasslands
en route are generally fairly unproductive for birds but we
will stop to scan for Madagascar Partridge, Madagascar
Buttonquail, Madagascar Sandgrouse, the elegant
Namaqua Dove, Madagascar Lark and the attractive
Malagasy Harrier, now split from the Reunion species.
Watercourses through the bizarre sandstone formations
of the Isalo National Park act as a magnet to the birds of
this dry area and we may find Madagascar Harrier-Hawk,
White-throated Rail, small flocks of Grey-headed
Lovebird, Stripe-throated Jery and the region’s special
bird, Benson’s Rock Thrush.

Day 18: Isalo National Park to Ranomafana National
Park

Today we embark on the long drive from Isalo to
Ranomafana, the scenery characterised by grassland
and dramatic rocky hills. Our main target on this drive will
be Malagasy Harrier, which can sometimes be seen
quartering over the vast grasslands we bisect. Like
Perinet, Ranomafana is situated on the eastern slope of
Madagascar’s mountainous backbone. However, this
national park is much greater in extent, spanning a wide
range of elevations and forest types. We will round off our
adventure in Madagascar by exploring these rich forests,
concentrating on the many specials of the park and any
forest birds that we may have missed at Perinet and
Anjozorobe.

Days 19 & 20: Ranomafana National Park

Ranomafana National Park was originally proclaimed to
protect its population of Golden Bamboo Lemur, a smart
animal first described to science as recently as 1987. In
addition to this and both Greater and Grey Bamboo
Lemur, we may find Red-fronted Brown, Red-bellied and
Small-toothed Sportive Lemur, the impressive Milne-
Edwards’s Sifaka and other mammals such as Common
Tenrec and the handsome Ring-tailed Mongoose. Night
walks in this area are especially rewarding owing to the
high concentration of “herps” in the area, and we should
find a range of fascinating chameleons and frogs (this
park is particularly well endowed with frogs, with over 100
species recorded!).

In the lower elevation forest near our lodging, we hope to
find Henst’s Goshawk, the elusive Brown Mesite with its
strange duetting call, Grey-crowned Tetraka, Forest Rock
Thrush, Wedge-tailed Jery, and Rufous and Pollen’s
Vanga. The delightful Pitta-like Ground Roller is also fairly
common here.

The higher elevation forests and swamps around the
village of Vohiparara are home to some birds that we
would not yet have encountered on our trip. Foremost
amongst these is the highly localised Yellow-bellied
Sunbird-Asity and this is the most accessible places to
see this endangered and very elusive species. We shall
concentrate our searches in some stunted ridge-top
forest where we may also locate the scarce Madagascar
Yellowbrow, Red-fronted Coua, the elegant Rufous-
headed Ground Roller, the creeping Brown Emutail, Rand’
s and the recently discovered Cryptic Warbler, Common
Sunbird-Asity, Pollen’s Vanga and, if we are lucky,
Madagascar Cuckoo-Hawk.

Day 21: Ranomafana National Park to Tana

After some final early morning birding, we will make our
way back north to Tana, breaking our journey for lunch at
the quaint, highland town of Antsirabe, famous for its
locally manufactured handicrafts. The road winds
northwards across the open landscape of the Horombe
Plateau, offering insight into the traditional lifestyle of the
Malagasy people. Steeply terraced rice paddies, tall
earthen houses with thatched roofs and roadside markets
displaying a wide variety of handicrafts form part of the
passing pageant, all against the backdrop of golden-
yellow grasslands and bare granite inselbergs; a fitting
end to our exploration of this enchanted island.

Day 22:  Tana and Depart for Home

Departure from Tana to connect with our flights home.
Detailed Itinerary
See Detailed Itinerary Below
For more information or to register for any of our birding trips, call Charles at
888-203-7464 or Charles directly at 720-320-1974 or by email at
info@PIBird.com.
More Details on This Trip